I was originally going to call this piece, How to Avoid Electronically Pissing People Off, but figured since I was striving for professionalism I’d better rethink that title.  So, you get Voiceless Miscommunication instead.  Confused yet?  Don’t worry…I’ll fix it.

I’ve said it before and I’m fairly certain I’ll say it again: we are virtually (no pun intended) overrun with technology; from cell phones to wireless networks, massively multiplayer online games to blue tooth and everything in between. These days it’s hard to tell when an actual person ends and their technology begins because one’s tech is very much another appendage which, if severed, could cause physical pain.

We love our cell phones, our texting, our emojis and emoticons, instant video, on-demand anything, now, right now, hurry up please. Can you say instant gratification? The problem this has created is we are, less and less, communicating with one another as we are with an artificial-like intelligence. Hey, Siri? Hi, Galaxy! And, wonder of wonders, our devices talk back to us. Sometimes with flippant comments cleverly programmed by those invisible actual-humans who program such wonders, and other times with seamless internet searches which delve for answers even before you’re done asking the questions.

Do you know that feeling you get – those of you who have experienced such things – when Siri comes back with a sarcastic non-answer? Or when Galaxy responds, “That’s a tough question. Allow me to search the internet for an answer to ‘What is two times two?’.” Meanwhile, you’re thinking: “Really?” And each time you attempt to clarify your question to the faceless, emotionless, quasi-A.I. which lives inside your device, the response you get only serves to confuse you further. As if two times two could ever equal purple, because aliens don’t wear hats. Say what?

But, in true Tangent style, I digress.

I was headed toward discussing email – another faceless, emotionless, quasi-A.I…. Ok, not really, but definitely one of the most widely-used forms of communication technology we have. But, as useful a tool as email is, email really doesn’t have a voice unless you give it one. We can take thoughts from our clever brains and type them out neatly into whatever email program you use (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo! – you get the picture) and suddenly thoughts become visible words. And, though you know how those words are supposed to sound, once they get ‘on paper’ they suddenly lose their tone. The words have no voice. Further, not everyone is as creative as you are, so your words may be misconstrued on the other end because the recipient was unable to hear with your intended voice. You are now voicelessly communicating with another human being.

Let’s face it, though. At the root of this, we’re all human beings; and therein lies the problem. Have you ever tried reading lips? Have you ever witnessed a conversation taking place in American Sign Language and wondered what was being said? Have you ever heard another language being spoken and felt left out? Now, I know there are a lot of you out there who can read lips, or understand ASL, or have an ear for foreign languages, so you may have to stretch a bit here, but stay with me. I’m trying to convey the level of confusion, exclusion, or even frustration you may feel at not being able to understand what is being said. Your logical brain tells you that, because two people are conversing they must be using a language they both understand and therefore, the conversation is meaningful to them. Your feeling brain is simply confused, lonely and left out. Though, really, you do not need to be involved in every conversation you hear (sorry, my inner mother just came out).

Wow…I went off track again. Sheesh! I must need some more caffeine.

How, you may be asking, do I give my email communications a voice? Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s hard. And some people are just unable to do it, no matter how hard they try. It could be a matter of, “I’ve gotten my point across,” or, “I’ve said what I meant to say,” or, “If they take what I’ve said in a way that I didn’t intend, well…that’s not my fault, is it?”

Actually, it is.

Relationships have been established, strengthened, fought for, and finally solidified or lost entirely using email. Through email, it is just as possible to capture someone’s attention in a positive way as it is to really tick someone off. Just a possible to get your message across in a friendly manner as it is to simply state facts.

Let’s test this, shall we?

Morning friend!

Just thought you’d want to know those catalogs you ordered have arrived. They’re on the shipping dock, which is currently overloaded with deliveries. WOW! I’m gonna be busy the next few days! Let me know if you need help moving them to storage.


Your catalogs are on the shipping dock. Dock’s full, so get them to storage soon.

Which email would you prefer to receive? While both emails contain the same information – catalogs have arrived, the shipping dock is crowded, the catalogs need to be moved to storage – one email is friendly and implies the sender’s willingness to assist the recipient with moving the catalogs in order to clear off the dock while the other email is basically, “Your stuff’s here. Come get it.”

Let’s try this again.


I just got a call from a customer who said you were unfriendly to them. I would really like to hear your side of the story. Do you have time to come see me this afternoon so we can work this out? I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.



I just got a call from a customer who said you were rude to them. You have got to tone it down. We need to talk about this a.s.a.p. I need you in my office before noon. This is not the kind of behavior I tolerate.

Again, which email would you rather receive? While both emails contain the same basic information, one is open-minded and non-accusatory; taking the facts as they are known and relaying them in a way that gets attention, but also lets the recipient know that no judgement is going to be handed down until both sides have fully vetted the information related to the situation. The other email is accusatory, judgmental and automatically assumes the recipient is at fault. Yes, both senders want to talk to the recipient, but it is apparent one prefers to hear both sides of the story before making any decisions while the other has already made a judgement call on the situation.

You can make or break any relationship via email. The trick is to find the right words, in the right context, which will convey the right meaning to the recipient. This is extremely difficult at times. Also, there are some folks who simply cannot do this, no matter how much they might want to or how hard they try. Bottom line is you need to write, and read, email with your human voice instead of your electronic one.

Here’s another way to look at it: If you are automatically inclined to react in a particular way to an email from a particular person, there’s nothing that particular person can do to beautify their words so you won’t take offense. I mean, let’s face it: there are some folks who just rub you the wrong way, no matter what they do, right? Just as there are folks who you can’t help but like, even if you may not really want to.

So, this voiceless communication thing is a two-sided coin. On one side, a sender really needs to pay attention to the words they are using, taking into consideration how those words will be received on the other end and if those words will convey their meaning in an appropriate, non-offensive way. On the other side, the recipient really needs to pay attention to the words as they are written and make an attempt to hear them with the human intonations with which they were intended.

Bottom line is: words are words, meaning is meaning, but undertone, intent, and predetermined feelings such as like and dislike are also key factors to consider when composing electronic communications. It’s a skill. And like any skill, it takes practice. So the next time you sit down to compose an email – however brief – consider the above-mentioned factors of words, meaning, undertone, intent, and feeling as you type. You may just find that your email has a positive impact on more levels than you ever thought possible.

Can you pass The Resume Test?

You all have been listening to me spew advice, thoughts, peeves, rants and other information for a long time now.  For that, I must say thank you.  I have a lot of experience and lot of knowledge, but it’s all self-taught and learned through many years of keen observation and asking enough questions to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  The point is: I know what I’m talking about and I don’t make stuff up because it sounds good.

One thing I know – for absolutely certain – is what employers (recruiters, specifically) are looking for when they review resumes and assess applications.  Bottom line?  They’re looking for formatting faux-pas, spelling snafus, and informational inconsistencies as much as they’re looking for employment experience and skill set.  Yes, the alliteration is fun, but what those alliterative allusions allude to (sorry, couldn’t help myself) could be detrimental to your job search.  You can be certain they’re testing you.

Have you ever asked yourself this question: “I’ve put out tons of resumes, I know my stuff and I’m an great candidate, so why am I not getting any call backs?”

First of all, the very best piece of advice I can give you is, “SLOW DOWN!”  You may be in a hurry to get a job, and therefore in a hurry to update your resume and start submitting applications, but don’t.  Hurry, that is.  Take your time.  Be thoughtful.  Be deliberate.  And BE HONEST.

Secondly, when you put together your resume, have a trusted friend look it over.  Heck, have two friends look it over.  Ask your friend to not only look for glaring errors, but ask them to think like a recruiter: what would they want to see?  If possible, show your friend a copy of one of the job ads you’ve responded to and ask them to impartially consider the match.  Also, have them take resume format into account.  Not just the way your resume is laid out on paper, but to look for spacing problems or things that just seem…off.  Then, no matter what they say, listen.

Third, SPELL CHECK!  This cannot be stressed enough.  You could be the best match for the job, but spelling errors could get you fired before you’ve even gotten the job.  Most employers aren’t going to think, “Well, she looks great on paper, and those spelling errors are probably just accidents, so let’s get her in here for an interview.”  They’re not going to give you the benefit of the doubt.  They are looking for the best, so be the best.  Further, most spelling errors aren’t accidents.  Yes, typos happen, but the worst thing you can do is show a potential employer you don’t know how to spell.  The second worst is showing them you didn’t bother to spell check your work.  Spell Check is there for a reason, so use it.

And lastly, be very careful about inconsistencies with your time-line.  In any type of resume, if you list start and end dates of a previous job and then have months or years in between listing your next job, consider saying something of what you were doing during that time.  For example: From July 2012 through January 2013 assisted a family member recovering from major surgery.  Whatever the case may be, say something so a potential employer knows you were not simply sitting around on the couch, eating yellow cheesy sludge out of a bucket with your fingers, and hollering at the television while collecting an unemployment check.  For that matter, if you were collecting unemployment, you may want to say something like: From July 2012 through January 2013 was actively seeking permanent employment.

One other thing.  It is in your best interest to keep your resume to one page, or two pages printed on one sheet if you’re using hard copy.  It is definitely a challenge to get all of your important information on one back-to-back page, but if a recruiter has to read War and Peace, they’re going to get bored awfully quickly.  Would you want to risk it?

The above tidbits don’t just apply to resumes, but also to online applications and any forms a potential employer may send you to fill out.  Also, understand this: Your resume is not the right place for elaborating.  The interview itself is the right place and time for further explanations and storytelling.  A recruiter worth his or her salt will only pre-screen potential employees who pass the resume test.  If you’re job hunting, go back and really look at your resume.  Do you think YOU would pass the resume test?

PS: Tananda says. “For the love of all that is holy… do not use some sort of decorative font or put artwork/graphics/selfies all over it.” For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly agree. Once you’ve got the words on the paper, let them speak for themselves.